A population-based study of seizures after traumatic brain injuries

N Engl J Med. 1998 Jan 1;338(1):20-4. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199801013380104.


Background: The risk of seizures is increased after traumatic brain injury, but the extent and duration of the increase in risk are unknown. The purpose of this study was to identify the characteristics of brain injuries that are associated with the development of seizures.

Methods: We identified 4541 children and adults with traumatic brain injury (characterized by loss of consciousness, post-traumatic amnesia, or skull fracture) in Olmsted County, Minnesota, during the period from 1935 through 1984. Injuries were classified as mild (loss of consciousness or amnesia lasting less than 30 minutes), moderate (loss of consciousness for 30 minutes to 24 hours or a skull fracture), or severe (loss of consciousness or amnesia for more than 24 hours, subdural hematoma, or brain contusion). We compared the incidence of new unprovoked seizures in this cohort with population rates, using standardized incidence ratios and Cox proportional-hazards analysis.

Results: The overall standardized incidence ratio was 3.1 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.5 to 3.8). The standardized incidence ratio was 1.5 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.0 to 2.2) after mild injuries but with no increase over the expected number after five years, 2.9 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.9 to 4.1) after moderate injuries, and 17.0 (95 percent confidence interval, 12.3 to 23.6) after severe injuries. In the multivariate analysis, significant risk factors for later seizures were brain contusion with subdural hematoma, skull fracture, loss of consciousness or amnesia for more than one day, and an age of 65 years or older.

Conclusions: The increased risk of seizures after traumatic brain injury varies greatly according to the severity of the injury and the time since the injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Concussion
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hematoma, Subdural
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / etiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index